Lord of the Rings Online Review: An Expected (but Great) Journey
by Dworkin, Contributor
Lord of the Rings Online is a polished but traditional MMORPG which lacks a large-scale PVP mode but more than makes up for it with topnotch 3D graphics, player housing and epic, story-driven quests in which players can help the Fellowship and the Free Peoples in the fight against the Dark Lord Sauron.
When it comes to fictional worlds, Middle Earth is probably one of the more famous, enjoyed and thoroughly thought out ones. Tolkien’s fantasy land for his Lord of the Rings and Hobbits writings were carefully planned through the creation of several maps, which is likely why it’s become such an iconic setting for several years. Naturally, it’s the setting for free-to-play MMO Lord of the Rings Online, but it’s never quite been as alive as it is here.
Becoming the Hero: Epic Story-Based Quests
In fact, fans of the film and book series will greatly enjoy the LOTRO experience because they are given a chance to complete epic quests with storylines about the Fellowship of the Ring’s quest to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron.
Your story will begin in your race’s particular stomping grounds. For example, the Hobbit homeland is the Shire so your first epic quest will be located there. The player will encounter various characters from the books as they complete the quests which is a very nice plus for fans of the series.
Graphics and Sound
In terms of graphics, Lord of the Rings Online implements a little bit of both options. Not only do the visuals properly capture the essence of Middle Earth, but it scales to accommodate the different kinds of computers that its players use, removing the need for a high-end system to get the full effect of the graphics. Distance is not compromised for the effect, either; it is clear how far the world stretches beyond the horizon.
In addition to the graphics, Turbine paid attention to using ambient sound to further capture the Middle Earth essence. Not only does it flow as players traverse the world, but some important NPCs are even given a specific soundtrack to help accompany the tale with the intention of enhancing the immersion during quests.
Earn Turbine Points While You Play
Lord of the Rings Online sports a cash shop that offers the standard fare, from tomes and mounts to the game’s expansions and more, using Turbine points as currency. Turbine points also tie into the game’s Deeds system, in which a character receives quests such as slaying a monster, using a skill or heading to a specific destination, as completing Deeds can result in Turbine points as a reward.
LotRO vs WoW
Many players have begun to think of Lord of the Rings Online as World of Warcraft set in Middle Earth, which wouldn’t be entirely misguided. Much of the quests are typical, requiring players to slay X amount of enemies while fetching Y amount of items at the same time. Crafting also functions in the same way, and WoW Guilds can be found in Lord of the Rings Online in the form of Fellowships. At the end of the day, it’s not too much different from the formula, but it does help add familiarity in a world that already offers plenty of charm. Turbine Inc. doesn’t try to change the wheel because it’s not broken.
PvP and Monster Play
Large-scale player versus player gameplay isn’t really possible in Lord of the Rings Online as all players are on the same side. This will satisfy anybody who simply wants to enjoy the content with as little resistance as possible in the wild, but it’s not necessarily the best option for those who enjoy random encounters and ambushing other enemy players.
Monster Play is an option, which is the game’s form of PvP warring between the free people and the Dark Lords, but it’s not quite on the same scale as other games. In Monster Play, you can choose to use your regular character in PvP fights or you can play as a special monster character that is max level even if your regular character is not maxed out. This adds a different type of PvP gameplay that is unique to LotRO.
Traits and Titles
One thing Lord of the Rings Online seems to have a grasp on is the aspect of dying—or “being defeated,” as it were. Players don’t die once their health runs out and return as ghosts that must find their bodies or be resurrected in this title; rather, players are defeated once their morale runs out and must retreat to a safer point or have their morale risen again. This is a nice touch since anybody with knowledge about Middle Earth knows that the dead don’t come back in this world.
As with other MMOs, Lord of the Rings Online does feature titles that one’s character can display at any time after earning them. Hundreds of titles span across all kinds of accomplishments, from completing Deeds and crafting to race-specific heritage and Monster Play and more. Attempting to earn even a small portion of the total title pool can take hours of dedicated gameplay, which gives the game even more worth for its time.
One of the perks of playing MMORPGs is having a place to call your own. LotRO has a very good player housing system in which you can buy your own home and actually stroll through the neighborhood to admire your friend’s houses. In other words, all of the houses are visible in the open world and are not instanced. Players can decorate their houses and store items in them.
At the end of the day, Lord of the Rings Online is a fair mixture between some of the best, tried and true methods of other MMOs and its own innovative ideas. While there are some shortcomings, such as the character progression relying more on changing traits and similar diversity rather than figuring out a solid, complex formula, it does seem like it is one of the better free-to-play options out there. Its expansive content helps it stand out from the rest, making it a good candidate for newcomers and MMO veterans to try out at their leisure.